Having an adequately equipped home office is essential to being productive. It is not necessary that everything be brand new, nor is it necessary that you spend a lot of money. What is important is that you select your items carefully and that they are functional and safe for use in a home office environment.
Check your telephone directory for used office furniture stores. Many times you can find very nice furniture available at a fraction of the cost. Don’t forget to also check the resale store and thrift shops in your area, as well as the local classified ads.
1. The Desk.
Bigger is better when it comes to desks. Try to choose one that has lots of room for your computer monitor, keyboard, telephone, and space to spread out paperwork and anything else that you may be working on at the moment. Pick a desk that has adequate drawer space and a file drawer for short-term filing of active projects.
If you choose a desk that has a built-in keyboard support shelf, make sure that the shelf is wide enough to hold your keyboard and still have plenty of room to let you perform natural mouse movements. Some new keyboard designs, such as the Microsoft “Natural”, are wider than standard keyboards.
2. The Chair.
Proper back and neck support is essential when you spend all day sitting down. Buy the best chair that you can afford. Your chair must have solid upper and lower (or lumbar) back support. A flimsy backrest puts stress on your spine while you’re seated and causes back pain. Look for a chair where the lower portion of a backrest is slightly curved to follow the natural contour of your spine.
Your chair’s seat should feel comfortable when you initially sit down and should remain that way after you’ve been seated for a significant period of time. If the seat becomes uncomfortable then the foam padding may not be a high enough density or the contouring may not be right for your body.
Make sure you have plenty of room around your hips and thighs. You should have at least one inch of space on either side of your body. It is also important that your chair’s seat properly supports your thighs without the edge of the seat coming in contact with the back of your legs while you are sitting.
3. File Cabinets.
To keep your home office organized, and avoid clutter, you are going to need filing cabinets. There are essentially two different file cabinets that are perfect for a home office. Here is a quick summary:
a) Vertical file cabinets
This is the most common file cabinet. Vertical cabinets are taller than they are wide so that they use a minimum amount of wall space. They have anywhere from two to five drawers and are the right size to hold letters and legal-size documents. They come in a variety of colors and gauges of steel. If you can afford to buy one that is fireproof, so much the better.
b) Lateral file cabinets
Lateral cabinets are wider than vertical cabinets, but not as deep, and are designed for high-volume storage capacity. They have anywhere from two to five drawers and can hold letters or legal-size documents. Files are either placed in the cabinet from left to right, facing the side of the drawer, or are arranged from front to back in multiple rows.
Many two-drawer lateral models are designed to fit underneath work surfaces and tables for additional storage and are often paired with a desk to increase horizontal space. Again, if you find one that is fireproof, and you can afford it, snap it up.
Bookshelves should be made of wood or metal. Avoid the fiberboard ones since they are flimsy and do not stand up to repeated usage. Like file cabinets, bookshelves come in vertical and lateral. Avoid vertical ones that stand too tall. There is a chance of them becoming top-heavy and falling over. Pay particular attention to this warning if you live in an earthquake area or if you have small children which may delight in climbing to the top of your bookcase.
5. Work Tables.
Worktables are great for spreading out large projects that your desk is not big enough to accommodate. If you have enough home office space for a permanent work table, that’s great. Otherwise, consider buying a folding table that you can take out when you need it and store it away when you do not.
Closets, garages, attics, and crawl spaces make great places to store completed projects and home office paperwork if the space is not damp or subject to high humidity. If storage is a real problem then you might need to consider renting an off-premise storage locker.
Think of your office furniture as the foundation of your productivity center. It is likely that you will have to live with your decisions for some time. Choose wisely. Your personal comfort, and ability to remain organized, depend upon it. If you outgrow your furniture later, or simply make enough money that you want to “kick it up a notch”, your investment will pay off because you will likely be able to get a great deal of your money back when you sell your old office furniture to make room for the new.